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Whitetail Wheaties

Whitetail WheatiesCamouflage-clothing maker Mossy Oak introduces a revolutionary high-protein food plot forage-developed by greenthumb deer researchers in New Zealand-to American hunters
By Larry Teague
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Dr. Grant Woods, a deer researcher and biologist from Greenville, S.C., is excited about the Biologic blends. Last year he planted test plots of Biologic for deer-hunting clients in Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Alabama and Arkansas, and is pleased with the results.

"In Arkansas, deer were walking through soybeans to get to it," Dr. Woods says of the forage's palatability. "They prefer it over all of the cattle forages."

White-tailed deer and beef cattle have totally different nutritional requirements, Dr. Woods points out. Nor do they like the same types of greenery. When foods are plentiful, he says, whitetails are very picky about what they'll eat.

"Contrary to what you may read, all the deer forage in America is basically cattle-pasture forage," he notes. "It was developed for cattle pastures. And it has been pushed over into the deer market by some very successful people."

Dr. Woods continues, "Though they are both rumenants, deer and cattle have different types of bacteria in their stomachs, and they don't digest foods quite the same. Cows can readily digest plants with thick-celled walls, but deer can't." (Editor's note: For more details on the digestive tendencies of white-tailed deer, see Larry Weishuhn's "Texas Deer Hunting" column elsewhere in this issue.)

Plants with thick-celled walls include ryegrass, wheat and oats-all of which provide little protein to deer and aren't preferred by them, either, Dr. Woods reports.

According to Haas, deer-, sheep- and cattle-grazing is one of New Zealand's top industries.

"It's like our oil and gas or computer chip industries here in the United States," he points out. "That's why millions of dollars in private research on developing highly nutritional deer forage has been subsidized by the New Zealand government over the years.

"It's a matter of economics," Haas further explains. "The faster they can raise venison and antlers for export, the more money they bring in. New Zealand biologists are world leaders in deer nutrition than anybody." Biologic, according to Haas, represents the best of that decades-long research.

Dr. Woods, who has tested Biologic for a Clemson University study himself, says the forage is unique in this country.

"In America, when someone tries to come up with a new plant, first he sees whether the seed will germinate; then he may carry on the research to see how many tons of graze per acre it will produce. In New Zealand," Woods notes, "they do things differently. They'll take 20 varieties of one plant and cultivate them in a hectare (2.2 acres). These 20 varieties are all slightly different genetic variations of the same plant. Then they put 10 bucks in the fenced area, and monitor their preferences and consumption.

"Deer," he emphasizes, "are very selective. The first day, those deer will be all over the 20 plots. By day two or day three, they'll be on one plot. And they'll eat all of that plot before they move onto the next one."

Such hybridization has enabled the New Zealanders to develop thin-celled plants that not only are easy for deer to digest, but that are also relatively easy to grow and boast protein levels as high as 38 percent.

Mossy Oak has signed an exclusive agreement with the seed company doing most of the research; those seeds will not be available through other U.S. distributors.

Following are the three Biologic seed blends being introduced, and the types of plants they'll grow:

Summer Management Blend: Best planted in spring when temperatures range from 60 degrees in the day to 40 degrees at night, the Summer Management mix contains Mt. Cook clover-a perennial drought-resistant clover tested in the arid country of Tasmania-and Temuka, a white clover that grows close to the ground, thus conserving moisture. Also in the mix is Biora Brisbane Brassica (a type of kale), Omaru (a forage grape) and Manaroa (another kale). This mix averages 30 percent protein.

"The Summer Management Blend is meant to carry deer through that critical time of year when fetuses are developing in does and bucks are developing antlers," says Bobby Cole, Mossy Oak's Director of Marketing Services.

New Zealand Fall Attractant: contains Ashburton Kiwi Kale-a hybrid kale with a high leaf-to-stem ratio. Biora Brisbane Brassica is also in the mix, and that broadleaf plant sprouts in 25 days and matures in 80 days. Omaru also is in the blend.

It's best planted in the month of October across much of the South (or earlier, if there's enough rain), and attracts deer during the hunting season, though it won't affect their body weight or horn development in such a short period of time. New Zealand Fall Attractant gets them through winter in fine shape, and averages 34 percent protein.

New Zealand Premium Fall Perennial: Although this forage will sprout and turn green in the fall, it is most beneficial to deer in late winter and early spring. It contains Biora Brisbane Brassica, Mt. Cook red clover and Timaru-a perennial broadleaf plant that is a mainstay of the deer-farming industry in New Zealand. New Zealand Premium Fall Perennial averages 34 percent protein.

"Other forages that are available for deer have significantly less total digestible nutrients than our products," notes Cole. "Oats, for example, have 55 percent digestible nutrients. Alfalfa has 64 percent. Ryegrass has 63 percent. Clovers run 64 to 67 percent. All of our blends average 80 percent digestible nutrients. That means 80 percent of what a deer consumes, its body absorbs and utilizes. That's significantly higher than anything else out there.

"Use these three blends in a cycle, and there will always be a source of protein available to whitetails on your hunting property year-round," Cole emphasizes. "If you can help deer go into spring and summer in better shape, bucks are going to grow bigger horns and does will have healthier fawns.

It's that simple."

(Editor's note: For more information on Biologic seed blends, contact: Mossy Oak, 200 E. Main St., West Point, MS 39773; phone 1-888-MOSSY-OAK. The company is offering a free 40-minute videotape on Biologic products. You pay only $4.95 for shipping and handling. Ask for "Advanced Wildlife Management.")

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